For more than four decades, residents of East Parkside, a West Philadelphia neighborhood packed with Victorian architecture largely built around the centennial exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, have been tending a small community garden on Viola Street. The garden has been both a source of greenery and fresh food and a hub of community interaction in a neighborhood that, like others in Philadelphia, has grappled with vacant and blighted land.
Recently, after working with the Neighborhood Gardens Trust and the Garden Justice Legal Initiative to protect the garden, residents have begun talking about expanding it into a full-scale urban farm. This spring, students from the Department of City and Regional Planning at the Weitzman School lent their skills to the effort, consulting with the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation on ways to expand the garden, among other priorities in the CDC’s strategic plan.
It’s a partnership that has been under way for a few years, says Lisa Servon, Kevin and Erica Penn Presidential Professor and chair of the city planning department. Servon leads the capstone practicum for planning students in the Housing, Community and Economic Development (HCED) concentration. Through conversations with CDC staff and board members, Servon has tailored the practicum so that students can work on projects that the CDC has identified as priorities. Last spring, for example, the student cohort helped the CDC get a handle on whether and where the neighborhood was gentrifying, identifying and compiling data that neighborhood leaders say they are still using regularly.
Read more at Weitzman News.